Lowering immigration was the key motivation behind the Brexit vote, and how to achieve it dominates the current political debate. Drawing on new data, Eric Kaufmann analyses the propsects of support for a hard and a soft Brexit, based on how much Britons would be willing to pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering the UK.
A new survey shows most Britons are not willing to pursue hard Brexit if it will cost them personally. Thus far, the economic indicators post-Brexit don’t look bad. Consumer spending and investment are holding up well, despite a lower pound. But if the going gets tough, there is a two-thirds majority willing to accept current levels of EU migration to retain access to the single market.
The leading motivation for Leave voters was reducing immigration while Remain voters prioritised the economy. This hasn’t changed. According to my YouGov/Birkbeck/Policy Exchange survey data, two-thirds of British people want less immigration, including 47 percent of Remainers and over 91 percent of Leavers.
Hard Brexit is a good way to bring numbers down. However, some suggest that when Theresa May triggers Article 50, the EU will drive a hard bargain, inflicting pain on the British economy. With economists claiming entry to the single market is worth 4 percent of GDP by 2030, I asked how much the average Briton is willing to sacrifice to reduce European immigration in the event the doomsayers are right. The final deal between Britain and the EU over leaving will hinge on how much economic pain, in the form of reduced market access, Britain is prepared to absorb to restrict European immigration.
The survey, carried out by the polling firm YouGov, asked a sample of over 1500 people the following question: “Roughly 185,000 more people entered Britain last year from the EU than went the other way. Imagine there was a cost to reduce the inflow. How much would you be willing to pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering Britain?” The options ranged from “pay nothing” for no reduction to paying 5 percent of personal income to reduce numbers to zero. Each percent of income foregone reduced the influx by 35,000. The results are shown in figure 1.
Source: YouGov survey, August 20, 2016.
Among those surveyed, and excluding those who didn’t know, 62 percent said they were unwilling to pay anything to reduce numbers, and would accept current levels of European immigration.
Source: YouGov survey, August 20, 2016.
As figure 2 shows, even among those who said they voted to leave the European Union, 30 percent reported they would prefer the current inflow of 185,000 to paying any of their income to cut the inflow. In other words, there is a significant ‘soft’ component within the Leave vote.
On the other hand, there is a considerable core of Brexit voters willing to tighten their belts to reduce migration: over a third of Leave voters indicated they would contribute 5 percent of their income to cut European migration to zero. More than half of Brexiteers are willing to pay at least 3 percent of their income to reduce European net migration from the current 185,000 to under 80,000. The average person who voted Conservative in the 2015 General Election is willing to stump up 2.5 percent of their pay packet to reduce European immigration to half its current level.
This means that if the costs of Brexit mount in line with pessimistic predictions, most British people favour a deal that preserves market access even if this results in only limited reductions in European immigration. May’s Conservative voters will put up with more pain, but not if it costs more than 2 percent of GDP. This suggests a deal between Theresa May and her EU interlocutors based on significant market access in exchange for limited migration controls may be acceptable to the 45 per cent of voters who currently back her party. It certainly will pass muster with a majority of the electorate.
If the economy continues to hold steady, the question is moot and hard Brexit remains a strong option. But if pain is on the way after Article 50, Middle Britain will be inclined to prefer soft over hard Brexit.
Eric Kaufmann is Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America: the decline of dominant ethnicity in the United States (Harvard 2004), Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth (Profile 2011). His latest publication is a Demos report, freely available, entitled Changing Places: the White British response to ethnic change. He tweets as @epkaufm.
Even if the UK’s GDP falls that doesn’t mean that individual wages/wealth will fall for the average person, surprised you can’t see that.
Gdp falls = less taxes for gov = less money NHS, pensions, benefits, investment = less money for average and low paid person. It might be OK for the rich if the pound does not fall to pieces.
“The leading motivation for Leave voters was reducing immigration”
Proof? The John Curtice article linked to does not say that. Merely that they are more concerned than Remain voters.
The Lord Ashcroft post-referendum poll ranked immigration as secondary, behind democratic concerns (again this issue is not dealt with in the otherwise excellent John Curtice report).
“Thus far, the economic indicators post-Brexit don’t look bad. Consumer spending and investment are holding up well, despite a lower pound.”
Post Brexit referendum, surely. As someone else said. It hasn’t happened yet.
Another question could be:
What am I prepared to give to reclaim the right to make our laws. More likely to give to that one.
We, erm, already have that right.
Does this article take in to consideration the loss of income tax revenues from working EU Nationals who may be required to return after a so called Hard Brexit?
I’m disagreeing with the ‘post-Brexit’ phrasing in the first paragraphs (in fairness this is everywhere). More accurate would be ‘post-referendum’ – we absolutely are not post-Brexit yet.
PS l also do not understand your statement that “…a deal between Theresa May and her EU interlocutors based on significant market access in exchange for limited migration controls … certainly will pass muster with a majority of the electorate.”
That assumes that it is possible to obtain controls on immigration with no economic costs at all. Surely there will be some reduction in market access in return for immigration control, and the moment that there is any cost at all there will be a two thirds majority in favour of Remaining. So even a soft Brexit will be opposed by a substantial majority.
Unless by “pass muster” you mean that the electorate will not realise in time that it will have to pay the bill.
Eric, l think you have wrongly assumed that Brexit is the only possible outcome.
Your first chart tells us that a deal that imposes any cost in order to reduce EU immigration would be opposed by 62% of the electorate.
It is hard to see the point of a Brexit that leaves us in more or less the same position as now, except that we cease to have a say on the rules that we have to follow. So let’s rule that option out instead.
So l think what you are saying is that there would be a vote of at least 62% for Remain if there was a referendum on the terms of Brexit and Theresa May had signed a deal to cut immigration.
See Facebook: Campaign for the Real Referendum on the Terms of Brexit
Lowering migration was not the Key motivation behind Brexit votes, democracy was. Indeed the only Brexit position on migration was that we could control the influx of unskilled labour from the eu and thereby allow more skilled labour from the entire world. The clear democratic deficit endemic in the eu and its enforced constitution was the major driving force behind Brexit, allied with the utter failure,although he claimed otherwise, of Cameron togged us any sort of deal whatsoever it is hardly surprising the majority voted to leave. As we know economic predictions rarely come to pass, no doubt the bankers who caused the crash, that we are paying for with austerity measures, believed the predictions of the time. There is no son for anyone to tighten their belts to reduce migration, very strange premise in any event.
“The clear democratic deficit endemic in the eu and its enforced constitution was the major driving force behind Brexit, ”
You mean the “clear democratic deficit” that exists chiefly in the minds of the politically illiterate who believe that they voted for a Prime Minister when in fact the government is appointed and who consider it a democratic deficit when just like in any other country, including their own, the executive is not directly elected?
“There is no son for anyone to tighten their belts to reduce migration, very strange premise in any event.”
Only to people who have never worked in either science or international business. Anyone who is not a parochial garden gnome knows the profit that comes from cultural exchange.
Name one Nation in the EU that still uses conscription?
Well actually Finland, Greece and Austria do, but I hardly see the risk you suggest.
Modern armies do not require cannon fodder in the way their predecessors did.
asking the young would you enlist tomorrow in a European Army few say yes! ask if they would enlist in the British army & many more say yes! The problem with a EU army is loyalty & if British troops are placed to control the sort of crowds we saw in Greece what if any loyalty would be lost! Only by National/EU army service could such a army be formed! & with the build up of forces on the Eastern front conscription wouldn’t be far behind & certainly national/EU service would be introduced through the back door. hope that clears up Dave (Clinton) what was a condensed point!
The Options should probably have been 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50%.
We all essentially lost 10% the day after the Vote due to the depreciation of Sterling. As I have income in Sterling but living cost elsewhere, I noticed it immediately, but everyone else will notice over time.
I somehow suspect that the fanatical 15% would probably still vote the same if they lost 50% of their income, but then again perhaps they really do believe in fairies.
The problem with all of these ‘long term’ analyses is that so much else will change over (say) 15 years that no-one will be able to separate cause from effect. However much we may, or may not, wish to reduce European immigration to the UK, that is the main reason for the ‘brexit’ vote and, as a democracy, we are stuck with it. Surely it is best to get on with it, to stop insulting our trading partners and to reduce the period of uncertainty.
Eric, I think the question should be put forward to the businesses that are heavily reliant on European Migrant Labour. A business is accountable & responsible for employing workers, and if that company builds its business model on sourcing foreign labour from europe or outside europe, then they should bear the cost to reduce migration. In a ideal world a company should be committed to investing in upscaling skills & training local labour. And staying competitive employing high-skilled workers from both local job market and abroad.
Individuals shouldn’t bear the cost to reduce european migration, we already contribute to public spending : public services, state pension etc.
EU migrants are net contributors to the cost of services. They are in work, young and healthy. Net tax contributors. Their main need for services are education and maternity. They pay in much more than they take out.
Yes fullfacts.org mentions:
Young, expected less likely to use adult social care* & health* services, more likely than the UK born to have young children*, expected to rely more heavily on education* and maternity* care
But not all EU european migrants fit the above profile, some are in
– high-skilled jobs, have private healthcare
– skilled jobs, don’t claim benefits
– low-wage jobs, entitled to claim benefits
– unemployed, claiming benefits
– reaching a pensionable age
so referring back to the article … “Roughly 185,000 more people entered Britain last year from the EU than went the other way. Imagine there was a cost to reduce the inflow. How much would you be willing to pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering Britain?” …
And to summarise my point – we should put the onus back on the many companies who mainly employ or are soley rely on (low/minium-wage) EU migrant workers, because it is businesses who create the demand, therefore they should bear the cost and pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering Britain not ‘joe public’.
// even young person can get ill, become unemployed, start a family, have family dependents, grow old, not all contributors pay taxes; and at various stages of a person life will require access to public services* //
Many migrants can and do come to this country and make a contribution to our economy but their are some cases of exploitation by unscrupulous employers, can force down and undercut local wages and legitimate businesses
Juliet — I think Eric’s contribution is not normative (as your argument is), but empirical. The question Eric is addressing is not “Who should pay for reducing EU immigration?”, but “How much does the UK population value reduction of EU immigration?”. The latter can then be set against the costs associated with different degrees of EU-immigration reduction to determine how much EU-immigration reduction to implement.
Eric – “How much does the UK population value reduction of EU immigration?” …
based on the cost to UK economy (4% of GDP) leaving the single market
I think we should have the choice to determine our immigration needs, I think all european countries should be able to future plan, and that’s a real issue.
[ value 1.5%, reduce numbers to 25k ] that’s just me, make it work both ways. UK Govt. proposed EU migration 30k skilled, 5k unskilled thresholds, if it means reducing EU migration to control flow, it should drop to 25k max. (exclude unskilled EU workers). I value positive immigration, put a high value on highly skilled workers providing the immigration criteria is (employment-based, confirm job, focused on industry-sector priorities).
EU immigration : freedom of movement
cited: Gov.uk “The best of both worlds” 2013-2014 …
ONS stats confirmed, UK sent a total of £11.4bn to the EU in 2014 and received £5.6bn in return, a net contribution of £5.7bn …
— (in-work benefits EU workers on low incomes = £2.5billion EEA migrants)
— (est. nearly £700 million a year to out-of-work EEA nationals on Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit)
Perhaps you can give us some definitive proof of this claim made by remain, and perhaps show exactly how someone working in the UK can pay in more than they take out.
“Perhaps you can give us some definitive proof of this claim made by remain”
Perhaps you can inform yourself better in the lead-up to giving your votes?
Simply. I am a migrant, father of 3, net income this year over 100k. My wife not working. Obviously i am not entitled to any payment from govt. Futuremore, 3 places in school are offset by my tax payment, as for 40k I’ve paid in personal tax i would easily put all 3 kids to private schools. We are relatively young and healthy, so don’t use nhs at all.
Honestly, since breferendum i am not sure what is so great about Great Britain and leaning towards reducing number of EU migrants by five. I already know an country which welcomes EU migrants like myself, so likely my modest tax payments won’t continue for long time here.
“Most British people favour a deal that preserves market access even if this results in only limited reductions in European immigration.”
Which of course isn’t on offer and isn’t going to be. There is no such beast as “limited free movement”.
On what definitive information have you made this broad claim? Dos British people couldn’t care less about the so called market access, because we know the eu won’t want to lose the major market for its exports.
By definition. It’s not free if it has any limits. You can no more have limited free movement than you can have black coffee with milk in it.
Or were you talking about the quote, which is based on the article and data above.
We export nearly double to the EU to what we import from them. Most of our imports are from China and India, we will be net losers in any trade with the EU if we are outside.
“There is no such beast as “limited free movement”.
Actually, there is. Lichtenstein has free movement, limited to 72 people year.
IIn other words, you are saying people are actually willing to pay less. This would make Brexit support even softer than indicated. I wanted to be cautious in my conclusions, but you’re right, one could take the argument even further.
Eric — what you have implemented is a variant of the Contingent Valuation (CV) method employed extensively to value willingness to pay (WTP) for e.g. environmental amenities. This method is known to produce invlated estimates, due to the purely hypothetical nature of its questions.
In light of this well-known feature of CV results, the revelatory data you have generated should, I believe, be interpreted as informing us of the upper bounds on peoples’ WTP for reducing migration from EU27 countries,
Sorry ii should be too stop our children grandchildren from being conscripted into a European army
I voted brexit i Greece ii too stop our children & grand children iii too force economic change in forcing economic change one of those changes is paying the true price for imports or foreign services,ie if at the moment x number of pounds are created to send,jobs abroad & only a small amount is then used to build up these countries & the rest is just profiteering then,i these countries are held back ii this stops use being able to trade properly with them(losing the window of opportunity of more job creation) iii means that has history proves people will flock to where the money wealth is! immigration isn’t bad unless it its at the expense of other nations fore-filling there potential & that is what hasn’t been happening & hopefully in forcing change on neoliberal flat earth economics might actually happen, ps this form of stopping mass damaging immigration would cost anything in the long run ,it would actually be beneficial to everyone but the profiteers.
I think that the UK should cut benefits and this money can be spent on payments for single market. EU’s leading country would like to show the UK new place, and no one will give the UK a hand from the EU.
I totally agree.
Timing complicates things. While most predictions are that a hard Brexit eventually would cost the UK 3% to 4% of GDP, that is “in the long run”, i.e. after the UK has a WTO commitment schedule and good (but standard) free trade deals with the EU and other trade partners. However, that “long run” can easily take 15 to 20 years to achieve. In the mean time, losses will be more severe and more concentrated.